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The Two Critical Questions in the Mayoral Debate

OPENING STATEMENTS

BRAND: “I have deep roots in this community. My great-grandfather came (here), two generations ago at the turn of the century, as an Italian immigrant. I was raised on McKenzie Street in southeast Fresno – a very, very humble beginning.

“I went to school. In fact, I was the first one in my family to graduate from college – I went to City College in 1972, I went to USC, I finished my education in 1974. I did a brief stint as a health care administrator and in 1978 I started my own business … and it grew to over 100 people that is called Westco Equities that is a real estate brokerage, construction management, property management (company) – very diversified with operations across the state.

“I took that 30-plus years of business experience when I was elected to the City Council in 2009. We inherited a mess at the city 2009. $500 million in debt …. In my time there we were able to avoid bankruptcy, to pay off $36 million in internal loans, to generate $15 million in the reserve. And during my time I authored 18 legislative policies mainly focusing on fiscal reform. That has left an everlasting impact on the city of Fresno.

“I have a demonstrated track record as a leader, as a collaborator as evidenced by several current City Council members who have endorsed me, several past City Council members, current supervisors, past supervisors. I represent the future for the city of Fresno. I bring my skill set in the private sector and my success record as a City Councilman to the challenge for the city of Fresno in the future.”

SPEES: “Fresno is at a crossroads, and only leadership will carry us forward. This mayor’s race is a call to leadership.

“Eight years ago we faced the worst recession in recent history and we selected a leader, Ashley Swearengin, a leader to pull us through. Today, March 10, 2016, crime is up, blight is unaddressed, kids are dropping out at alarming rates and other kids are graduating unable to compete for good jobs that are available right here in Fresno. And homelessness confronts us on every street of our city. Unacceptable.

“How we lead Fresno in this next season is critical to our city’s future. I have led at the local level and at the national level in creating solutions that reduce poverty, crime and violence in cities. In my career I have started and led organizations as CEO (chief executive officer). I’ve been responsible for multi-million-dollar budgets. I know how to read a financial statement, I know how to balance a budget, I know how to prioritize limited resources and I’ve made payroll. I’ve run organizations that have produced jobs, housing, healthcare and education for our city and cities across the U.S.

“I have a three-part plan for leading Fresno: Safe and healthy neighborhoods; a thriving economy with good-paying jobs; educational excellence leading to bright futures for our kids and our grandkids. The other day I was talking to one of our police officers and he said, ‘By the way, what does H stand for?’ I thought for a minute and immediately popped out ‘Higher expectations.’ That’s what this candidacy is all about. That’s what I’m about. That’s what we need in the city of Fresno.

“Those two words typify my leadership. We’re capable of being more than we are today. We stand on the shoulders of some very strong mayors. Eight years ago Ashley was elected as an outsider to serve as our mayor. Today it’s time to choose another leader for a different time. I am that leader, another outsider, a non-politician who can lead all of us in making Fresno the city that we can be even prouder of to call home, a city that our children and our grandchildren choose to make home.”

PEREA: “Everybody in this room and everybody that’s listening has parents and grandparents that built the future that we all have enjoyed and prospered with. We now have that responsibility to our children and our grandchildren to build their future.

“So what this next mayor’s race is about is the person that can take the many complex issues that face our community – whether it’s public safety, whether it’s jobs, whether it’s a clean, sustainable water supply for our community and our region, whether it’s the quality of life issues that we’re all dealing with everyday, and I use slumlords as the first example – it’s about a mayor who’s going to be able to take these issues apart and put them back together and come back with solutions, real solutions, on how to get these problems fixed and with real timelines by which they will get done.

“That’s what the next mayor owes to the people of the city of Fresno. Because the time has passed where we just talk about the issues. The time is now that we get things done….We are the fifth largest city in the state of California. We are the capital of the San Joaquin Valley. A lot of people expect us to be that, but we’re not. It’s time for Fresno to take on the leadership mantle, to lead this region.

“When you think about the four million people that live in the San Joaquin Valley, and there’s going to be eight million by 2050, the city of Fresno should absolutely be poised to take the leadership position of this community and lead our Valley. And if you think that’s out of the realm of possibility, I was just at a meeting today where we were talking about cap and trade funds for the types of projects we need – there’s $400 million on the table. And guess what? We’re always beat out by the larger population centers of Los Angeles and San Francisco.

“Think about the possibility of four million people working together … So the next mayor is about leadership, it’s about somebody who has a proven record of getting things done.”

George Hostetter
George Hostetter is The Sun’s Fresno Civic contributor – covering the City of Fresno, County of Fresno, and Fresno Council of Governments.

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